Health Promotion administrator examines gambling on campuses

Michelle Farabaugh

Stacy Andes, director of Health Promotion, was chosen to participate on the Task Force of College Gambling Policies, a national committee addressing the problem of gambling on college campuses.

The task force recently published 10 recommendations on gambling policies for colleges to consider.

The task force was founded in 2008 by the Division on Addictions at the Cambridge Health Alliance, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and the National Center for Responsible Gaming.

Andes was chosen to participate because Villanova is a part of the 22 percent of American colleges that have a written policy for gambling already in place.

Along with Lehigh University, Villanova represents Pennsylvania colleges and universities on the task force.

The task force made its recommendations after reviewing scientific research funded by the NCRG and considering “college student behavior and the realities of implementing new policies on campus,” according to the “A Call to Action” report.

According to the executive summary of the report, it is estimated that 3 – 11 percent of U.S. college students have a serious gambling problem.

However, 50 percent of college students report that they have gambled in the last year, according to Andes. This fact makes it difficult to gather data that will accurately predict the number of students with gambling problems.

Signs of problematic gambling include an obsession with gambling, a need to bet more money more often, hesitancy to stop gambling and continuing to gamble despite negative consequences, according to the University Counseling Center Web site.

Because of Villanova’s “protective” location, Villanova does not see much casino gambling among its students. Playing the lottery, card games, sports betting and online gambling are all popular on campuses across the country, however.

Since gambling is associated with high-risk drinking, another addictive behavior, the recommendations make a point of suggesting the integration of policies concerning alcohol and gambling.

Another trend shows that gambling is more popular at Division I universities.

Data concerning gambling at Villanova is based on the National College Health Assessment, a survey given every two years.

“It is too soon to tell at Villanova,” Andes said. “We just started inquiring about gambling behaviors in the spring 2009 National College Health Assessment survey administration.”

The University’s current policy can be found in the Blue Book. It reads, “Villanova University expects students to abide by federal and state laws prohibiting illegal gambling,” and goes on to elaborate on what kinds of activities are banned.

“We’re a step ahead just by having a policy,” Andes said.

Villanova’s next step is to review the current rules through the lens of the task force’s recommendations, several of which focus on support and recovery rather than punishment.

The Blue Book’s current policy reads, “Students involved in illegal gambling, particularly bookmaking, are subject to suspension or expulsion from the University.”

“If a student presents himself to a university health service with a physical problem such as kidney disease or a fractured hip, the college will bend over backward to assist the student,” Task Force Chairman Peter Emerson said in a recent Associated Press article. “Addiction is in a different category.”

The University will focus on spreading awareness and education about the problem of gambling, Andes said, particularly the possibility of developing more Web resources.

While the Counseling Center focuses on intervening with the small population of students with a gambling disorder, the Health Promotions Office has a different aim.

“We focus on the larger population of students [who face] day-to-day choices,” Andes said.

Andes is also an instructor for the Healthy Living Learning Community in Katharine Hall.

Two years ago, the learning community added the topic of financial health to its curriculum.

A professor from the School of Business discusses topics such as budgeting, understanding credit scores and discretionary spending with freshmen participants.

An extremely positive student response to the seminar reassured Andes that the University is moving in the right direction.

“The University of North Texas has an entire office devoted to financial health,” she said. “We’re benchmarking our educational efforts against them.”